Brij Kothari began his journey towards designing SLS in New York, in 1996. As students of Spanish, they were watching a movie with English subtitles. He just happened to wish that the subtitles were Spanish so he could “catch” the Spanish dialogue better. He suddenly thought that if Hindi film and songs were subtitled in Hindi, India would become literate. I have been learning Spanish this way on a Spanish MOOC.
SLS is simply the idea of subtitling audio-visual media in the ‘same’ language as the audio. Hindi content subtitled in Hindi, Tamil content in Tamil and so on in any and every language. The innovation is 16 years old. Its life can be compressed into two long periods. SLS on film songs was researched rigorously for the first five years at IIM Ahmedabad. The evidence from several studies is that it works, and as Kavita from Ahmedabad’s Gulbai Tekra slum put it, “like magic.”
It is not actually magic, but rather a meticulously scientific system backed with extensive research into the effect of subtitling which inescapably and automatically encourages reading practice.
Three to five years of regular SLS-exposure on mainstream TV film songs, already consumed by hundreds of millions, is what it takes to transition most weak-readers, who can barely recognise a few alphabets but whom we call “literate” anyway, to functional-literacy defined by an ability to read a newspaper.
It is amazing to think that transformational education could be this inexpensive and reach so many people simultaneously.
Brij Kothari says that this innovation keeps engaging policy because the government is not a monolith. There still are a few good men…and women in the government that social entrepreneurs depend on for strategic facilitation. But there implementing a national policy is still frustrating slow.
A scientifically developed, simple to implement and inexpensive solution has been found, for inescapable and lifelong reading among 700 million TV viewers of this country. (India) How much longer will it take for policy to find it and scale it up?
Bri Kothari is a social entrepreneur and is on the faculty of IIM-Ahmedabad. His recognition of the power of subtitling is as revolutionary as it is obvious.
As you read the philosophy behind Global Citizens Art you will see that I have this same socially entrepreneurial attitude to education. I believe that we should be steering our students towards an attitude self-directed learning that is entrepreneurial in nature. We should be arranging learning experiences around project based creative arts inquiry learning assisted by instructional movies with audio and same language subtitling. I will have my own creations uploaded here over the next few weeks. If you have already been experimenting with these techniques please feel free to add links to your work in the comment boxes below.